You might want to sit down: Obama apparently lied about ‘evolving’ on support for gay marriage
posted at 9:31 am on February 10, 2015 by Noah Rothman
Few will be surprised to learn that President Barack Obama apparently “misled” the nation for years regarding his personal support for same-sex marriage rights. That’s apparently what former White House advisor David Axelrod revealed in his forthcoming memoirs. But, first, a warning: The self-flattery masquerading as candor in the revelation that Obama lied to the public for the better party of his political career is tough to stomach.
“I’m just not very good at bullshitting,” Obama told Axelrod, after an event where he stated his opposition to same-sex marriage, according to the book.
Axelrod writes that he knew Obama was in favor of same-sex marriages during the first presidential campaign, even Obama publicly said he only supported civil unions, not full marriages. Axelrod also admits to counseling Obama to conceal that position for political reasons. “Opposition to gay marriage was particularly strong in the black church, and as he ran for higher office, he grudgingly accepted the counsel of more pragmatic folks like me, and modified his position to support civil unions rather than marriage, which he would term a ‘sacred union,’ ” Axelrod writes.
As a state senate candidate in 1996, Obama filled out a questionnaire saying “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.” But 12 years later as a candidate for president, Obama told Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church that marriage could only extend to heterosexual couples. “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman,” Obama said at the time. “Now, for me as a Christian — for me — for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God’s in the mix.
It was that answer on a questionnaire that led observers to believe that Obama was seeking a politically advantageous position on the issue of gay marriage in 2008 rather than speaking honestly. In fact, Obama has always treated the issue of gay marriage, and the faith that supposedly informed his convictions, as matters to exploit for maximum political leverage rather than closely-held principles.
Obama’s dubious comments on this matter stretch back over ten years. “What I believe in my faith,” Obama said, raising his head and making eye contact with his interlocutor this during a 2004 Senate debate, “is that a man and a woman, when they get married, are performing something before God.”
As public opinion on gay marriage rights evolved rapidly over the course of the following decade, so, too, did Barack Obama’s opinion on the matter. At least, that was the cover story. His convictions supposedly shifted irrevocably in one direction right at the minute that Vice President Joe Biden appeared on Meet the Press and expressed his support for the right of gay and lesbian couples to wed. So, just 48 hours later, the president called up ABC News and revealed his personal evolution on the same-sex marriage rights to the world. It was all so natural and unforced.
Obama, a progressive at heart, was honest about his support for gay marriage in 1996, and he spent the next 16 years hiding his politically inconvenient opinions from the public until they became acceptable to a majority. There’s nothing especially shocking about that, but the fact that this fails to astonish is itself a lamentable condition. Surely, the press has grown so morbidly jaded that Axelrod’s revelation will land with a thud. They all knew. By 2012, the press corps allowed themselves to laugh openly at Jay Carney’s evasive and unconvincing attempts to prevaricate in response to questions about Obama’s evolving position on gay marriage rights.
This level of cynicism, the expectation that obviously our political leaders would mislead us about what they truly believe, cannot be healthy in the long run. Yes, politicians will always maneuver rhetorically so as to seek out the most favorable political position, but to excuse faithless comments from the president in order to facilitate his ability to secure that position feels… untoward. An unspoken bargain is struck between the president and the nation in which he is expected to lie to the public and the public is expected to wink back in response. And all this is considered normal and wholesome republican behavior? Is it naïve to fear for the deleterious effects this institutionalized mendacity will have on the nation? Sure, this duplicitous dance may have become a routine feature of American life, but none of this is right.
In a piece for Townhall Magazine, I wrote about the qualities and features that America will likely seek in their next president. We cannot know what challenges the next commander-in-chief will face, but we can know the character we would like to see in Obama’s successor. History suggests that the public has a tendency to seek out a figure to replace a sitting president who corrects for the perceived flaws in his predecessor’s personality. The more I think about it, the more I think a figure like a Scott Walker might appeal to Americans in 2016 perhaps more so than any other politician. After eight years of lawyerly, aloof, cagey, and professorial, the public will hunger for direct, autodidactic, and relentless. At least, you would hope they would.
This casual dishonesty we now witness from our president, a dishonor celebrated in the press as clever political maneuvering, cannot continue forever without at some point unalterably eroding the nation’s moral center.